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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Orleans to update inaccessible bus stops by 2031

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 5:45 PM

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Nearly 94 percent of New Orleans bus stops fail to meet the needs of disabled riders, and the city has until 2031 to update them. On Feb. 10, the city, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and its owner Transdev Services settled a lawsuit filed by three wheelchair users arguing the city's transit stops are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with stops riddled with too-steep slopes, broken landing pads or no landing pads at all.

Plaintiffs Francis Falls, Mitchell Miraglia and Thad Tatum with attorney Andrew Bizer of Bizer & DeReus filed the suit after Bizer sent a public records request to examine the state of the RTA'S ADA compliance. In 2015, Manning Architects released its report, which surveyed the city's 2,218 bus stops. The report found that only 5.7 percent (126) had a compliant transit stop area and pedestrian access route, while the remaining 2,092 stops need to be updated; 336 of those stops had a compliant stop but still required sidewalk or curb ramp construction.

"We sent a second request saying, 'Hey, what are you doing about it?' They didn’t respond," Bizer said. The plaintiffs then filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Eleven months later, the parties settled.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby and Bizer will monitor the city's progress following a five-year inspection period for the city and RTA to determine the scope of renovations.

The previously unpublished report estimates the cost of ADA compliance is $10.7 million to $12.6 million in projected 2016 dollars. "Phasing the completion of the improvements over a 10-year period would require an estimated total of $13.9 million," according to the report.

The report found that stops often had cracked or broken landing pads, flat areas where wheelchair users can enter and exit sidewalks, "or just a pole that says it's a bus stop, in the dirt, without a landing pad," Bizer said. His clients were often forced to overshoot their stops to others where they safely could get off their bus but still faced busted sidewalks and were forced to roll in the streets. "It's one thing after another," Bizer said. "The ability to be independent as a disabled person is difficult. At the very least our public transportation should be compliant with federal civil rights laws."

Following extensive RTA upgrades as the city renovated transit stops and brought bus lines back into commission, it didn't take into account ADA compliance measures, Bizer said. "They were modifying these bus stops, and they were doing it wrong," he said. "That’s frustrating as a taxpayer."

The firm also is representing the plaintiffs in a separate lawsuit over the city's historic streetcars' ADA accessibility, a campaign began with comedian Jonah Bascle, who died in 2014.

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